‘Not only have you quit the I.S., but you’re baiting them. You went shopping. You broke into their records vault to shred your file. Locking a runner unconscious in his own car?’ he said with a carefully cultivated laugh. ‘I like that. But even better is your quest to improve yourself. I applauded your drive to expand your horizons, learn new skills. The willingness to explore options most shun is a mind-set I strive to instill in my employees. Though reading that book on the bus shows a certain lack of…judgement.’ A sliver of dark humour showed behind his eyes. ‘Unless your interest in vampires has an earthier source, Ms. Morgan?’

Over a year ago a friend of mine back in Ireland recommended I check this book out. I have had my eye out for it, but for some reason could never find the first book in the series. My library did have copies of the later books, but once again, no first book. Last Thursday I finally cracked and bought myself a copy from Dymocks.

After all it is Halloween and I was hoping to have a variety of horror novels ready for the blog.

Rachel Morgan is a witchfinder who is pretty witchy herself. Preferring to practice white magic only, she has made a living working for the Inderland Runner Services, or the I.S. an organization with the oversight of society’s more supernatural citizens. Until she quit. Now her former employers want her dead, she’s on the trail of a conspiracy that might save her neck, but her vampire flatmate has her eyes on that too.

See in this world humanity focused its scientific advances on biology instead of the space race. A pharmaceutical Cold War resulted in a horrific pandemic that wiped out large numbers of the planet’s population, inadvertently revealing the presence of vampires, witches and the were-kind hidden within society. For when civilization was brought to the brink it was they, known collectively as Inderlanders, who protected it from complete collapse. An uneasy truce was declared between them and the humans they regard as their food (or in the case of black witches, their potion ingredients) with laws drawn up to police relations between the competing groups.

As a former employee of the I.S. Rachel is privy to a lot of sensitive information that she will not be able to live long knowing, unless she can cut herself a deal with the forces behind her own death warrant. Striking out on her own she finds surprising allies in the half vampire Ivy and the truculent pixie Jenks. With a little bit of luck and some inventive potions, maybe she will last until the end of the week.

I had a lot of fun with this book. First of all Harrison dispenses with the worldbuilding early on. Yes vampires, werewolves, pixies and fairies are all real. Humans have embraced undead culture and there are guidebooks on how to satisfy your vampire lover. Once that is established the plot kicks in with Rachel evading several assassination attempts while on the hunt for leads to expose a conspiracy involving the drug trade.

As this is the first book in a series we also get to know a carefully selected cast of characters. The uneasy relationship between Ivy and Rachel is played mostly for laughs, with the frazzled witch unknowingly dropping hints that she would like to be bitten, despite loudly insisting she does not. Harrison treats the subject of vampire sex with far better humour than Charlaine Harris’ explicit bedroom antics in the Sookie Stackhouse series.

Then there is an impromptu driving lesson courtesy of a pixie and a sequence involving animal shapeshifting that reminded me of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. In all this is great fun, with some gripping action and a nice line in heroic quipping. There is even an encounter with a demon that was sufficiently scary for the book to meet my Halloween chill factor quota.

Looks like I have another series for me to hunt down.

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